Nanaimo Festival celebrates Indigenous dance, drumming, arts, crafts and cuisine

What: Sum̓sháthuthut [Sun] Festival, a celebration of indigenous dancing, drumming, singing and cooking
Where: Beban Park Auditorium, 2300 Bowen Rd., Nanaimo
When: Saturday, 3 p.m. (doors at 2:30 p.m.)
Tickets: $ 15 at the door (tickets that include dinner can be purchased at for $ 25 or $ 45

Nanaimo’s Sum̓sháthut Festival was not designed to attract only the indigenous communities of the central island. Celebrating the culture, food and music of many First Nations is within everyone’s reach, according to organizer Tsatassaya White.

“When I envisioned this, I felt there was an opportunity to bring people together, not just mine,” said White, who is a member of the Snuneymuxw and Hupacasath First Nations. ” Everyone is invited to participate. We share Aboriginal culture with everyone.

The Sum̓sháthut festival – “sum̓sháthut” representing the sun – is timed to coincide with the winter solstice, an important time of year in Indigenous culture. It represents “the return of the sun,” according to White, and celebrations around December 21, the shortest daylight period and longest night of the year, are popular.

His event – which brings together a wide variety of traditional items, including beads, knitting, painting and sculpture for sale at the Trading Post Market – aims to unify several tribes and nations on Vancouver Island, each of them hosting their own celebrations at this time of year.

“Because it’s winter, what often happens is that everyone [in the Indigenous community] stay at home and have parties, but you must be invited to these events to attend. I thought there was an opportunity to bring people together and celebrate together.

White said Nanaimo has an indigenous urban population of 10,000, made up of First Nations people from across the country. But with different traditions and ceremonies surrounding the winter solstice, she gave her event steeped in ancient traditions a contemporary twist – through urban intertribal dance groups – to ensure its success.

“People really missed our cutlure. People will be happy to hear the songs and see the dancers.

Nanaimo’s Crimson Coast Dance is participating as a presenter at the Beban Park Auditorium event, which gave White the opportunity to better showcase Indigenous performing arts. Performances by Salish Shxw’aluqwa ‘, Hishuk’ish Tsawalk dance group and Lekwungen dancers are planned. Along with dancing and music, the food is also a big part of the draw. Salmon, deer stew and bannock offerings are on the menu, White said, and are available in tandem or separately from admission to the event.

“We celebrate culture, cuisine, fashion. We cover a lot of bases.

Craftsmen, fashion designers and storytellers round out the events on the list on a busy Saturday for White and his festival team. “It’s got a little bit of everything,” White said.

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About Tracy G. Larimore

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